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Pink and Parched – Triumph of Indian cinema

The month of September has been a treat Indian cine-goers with meaningful films like Island City, Pink (and now Parched) adding to the delight in the midst of all the balderdash.

Last week’s release, Pink was a strong statement against the deep-rooted misogyny in our society. With his very crafty use of subtlety and brutal realism, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury taught us when a woman says ‘No’ it means no.

The strong screen presence of Amitabh Bachchan and Piyush Mishra, accentuated by the bold performances of Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Taring and Angad Bedi, truly complemented the effortless writing and skilled camerawork that made the thriller-cum-courtroom drama a treat for the senses.

 

pink-movie-poster

Pink Movie Poster

 

Pink gives us a message without being preachy. It deals with the oft-so-repeated clichés about feminism, but the fresh treatment drives home the message so effortlessly that you are numbed by the time end credits roll.

The one scene from the court, where Palak breaks down in the face of constant grilling of the prosecution is extremely relevant in our times. So what if a woman takes money in lieu of sexual favours? It is well within her rights to say no, and when she does no one dare force her into bed!

In fact, out of the three female protagonists, Palak will remain my favourite. With shades of grey, she is the weakest among the lot – but when harassed to the point of brink, she stands up to the bullying boys and refuses to cow down!

The best thing about Pink is that the film does not offer us any scope of being judgmental. The incident at Surajkund which triggers the chain of events in the film, is shown in the end credits – the audience keeps guessing and putting pieces together based on the witness accounts in the courtroom.

At a time when rapes have become just another headline in the inside pages of newspapers, molestation is commonplace and eve-teasing sort of birth right for the men, Pink brilliantly tears down the false notion that women who drink, socialise or solicit with men, are inviting them for sex.


While Pink deals with four middle-class girls from South Delhi, Parched is set in the deserts of rural Rajasthan; an antithesis of the urban saga. It is the story of four women who are ‘outcasts’ even in the 21st century.

Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is a widow who weds his teenage son to a 15-year old Janki. Although Janki (Lehar Khan) has a lover in her village, she is forcefully wedded to Gulab (Riddhi Sen) for money. To foil the wedding, Janki even sacrifices her prized possession – her waist-length hair, thus becoming a laughing stock in the village.

 

parched

A scene from Parched

 

Rani’s friend and soulmate in the village Lajjo (Radhika Apte) is a happy soul save the fact she is unable to bear a child. Obviously, the husband thinks it is the fault of the woman as men can never be infertile. Her barrenness is a reason for misery and nocturnal abuse for Lajjo. Rani has another friend, Bijli (Surveen Chawla) who dances at the ‘tamasha’ by the evening and sleeps with men for money at night.

‘Parched’ in true sense is a film about women’s liberation. It is not coincidental thus the climax occurs on ‘Dashami’, the last day of Durga Puja (or Navratri in the part of India where the story is set). These four women, cocooned in their worlds, have their share of fun. They joke about men, come up with curse-words named after men (move over MC, BC), seek solace in each other and are also involved in making handicrafts for a local self-help group.

Patriarchy comes in any form – whether it is the abusive husband or the brash son who looks down upon his widow mother, or even the customers who think they own a woman because they have paid for her for the night. Society deals a rough blow to the four women but they refuse to be bogged down. Their thirst for freedom in this parched land keeps them going.

Tannishtha Chatterjee and Radhika Apte are both strong actors with their own legacy and do full justice to the roles. Surveen Chawla is a revelation as Bijli. This confident young girl refuses to let go of her aspirations even when a new ‘tamasha’ girls forays into the circus or when the man she thought understood her desire for freedom fails to live up to her expectations.

Leena Yadav’s film is raw, bold and real. She drives home the message that women have the right to decide the course of their lives, no one else. The whole film has an earthy feel and the dialogues are at times raunchy. The writing has various shades – from gloomy to boisterous, as is life.


Films like Pink and Parched need to be made more often. More stories like these need to told if the centuries-old patriarchy has to be eliminated. Thanks to Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Leena Yadav for making a start.

 

My Rating: 4/5 stars to both the films

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Pose Have Their Respective Copyrights

Politicising rapes: NCW Chairperson should resign

NCW ChairpersonNational Commission of Women (NCW) is a respected organisation that is deemed to be the voice of women, who have been subjected to brutality from the society. It is expected to stand by those who face violence within their homes and without, always upholding the tenet of equality and dignity for women. Sadly, the current Chairperson of the NCW has not only miserably failed in her job, but allowed her political biases to influence the august chair she holds.

Mamta Sharma’s connection to the Congress is well known. She even contested Rajasthan Assembly elections on a Congress ticket (I am not even sure if that is allowed). And indulging in politics as NCW Chief is her forte (which was clearly proved when she visited Kolkata, and was flanked by senior WB Pradesh Congress leaders wherever she went).

For a person who holds the august chair of NCW Chairperson, it is but expected she will be sensitive towards victims of gender violence. It is hence appalling when the NCW Chief blames women for molestation and asks them to “dress carefully” to prevent sexual violence.

Mamta Sharma threw all protocols and conventions to air today when she wrote to (not unsurprising, given her political leanings) WB Pradesh Congress a letter, which had little to do with concern for women and was more of a political tool ahead of Lok Sabha elections. Blaming WB Govt for rising crimes against women in the State, she asked Congress to take steps to ensure safety of women (yes, the same Congress which has presided over rape after rape in Delhi; coincidentally Delhi houses the office of NCW).

Mamta Sharma is wrong on many counts. If one goes by statistics, the National Crime Records Bureau clearly show that the number of rapes in West Bengal has come down from 2536 (in 2009) to 1590 (November 2013). While crimes recorded against women in 2012 in Kolkata were 68, that in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore stood at 585, 232, 94 and 90 respectively.

Secondly, whenever crimes against women have been reported in the State, the administration has always arrested the culprits in the shortest possible time. What better example than the Madhyamgram case (October 26 – FIR lodged, Oct 31 – all accused arrested, Dec 17 – chargesheeted) or the Khidderpore case (arrests made within 24 hours). It is a tragedy that people, who failed to take action after incidents like Bantala, Dhantala, Bhangar, Tapasi Malika, Anita Dewan or Jagori Baske, now shed crocodile tears for the safety of women.

Already, there are 65 women’s police stations in different districts of West Bengal. The West Bengal Govt has set up 80 fast-track courts to deal with these crimes. Every district has a human rights court. The truth is that, due to a free media and greater sensitization due to administrative support, crimes are reported freely by women. This was unimaginable in the previous regime, where rape was a tool of scoring political brownie points.

And to spread social awareness against crimes like these, the Government has started projects like Kanyashree, Atmaraksha and Sukanya for women empowerment. Unlike some priviledged politicians who make a hue and cry over women’s issues during election season, the West Bengal Govt has been tirelessly working for the cause, despite a huge anti-publicity industry based in Delhi.

While politician Mamta Sharma is free to have her own opinion and biases, when she is on the chair of NCW Chairperson, bipartisanship and empathy from women is the least of our expectations from her. If she is incapable of doing justice to her post, she should immediately resign.

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